T.S. Eliot’s Politics

"T.S. Eliot's Politics." First published as "Elements that are Wanted." Review of The Idea of a Christian Society, by T.S. Eliot (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1939). Partisan Review 7 (September-October 1940): 367-79.


It is a century ago this year that John Stuart Mill angered his Benthamite friends by his now famous essay on Coleridge in which, writing sympathetically of a religious and conservative philosopher, he avowed his intention to modify the rigid materialism of utilitarian thought. Mill did not speak out for Coleridge for what are sometimes called “romantic” reasons—that is, because he thought transcendentalism was warmer and more glowing than utilitarianism. He did think so, but the reason he urged attention to Coleridge was that he thought Coleridge’s ability “to see further into the complexities of the human feelings and intellect” offered something practical to add to Bentham’s too “short and easy” political analysis. And he told his radical friends that they should make their prayer this one: “ ‘Lord, enlighten though our enemies’…sharpen their wits, give acuteness to their perceptions and consecutiveness and clearness to their reasoning powers: we are in danger from their folly, not from their wisdom.”

Boston University - Partisan Review archive - first published version